This is a member of the squash family that is eaten as a vegetable. Chayote (pronounced chi-YO-tay), originated in southern Mexico and Central America, grows on a vine and is about the size and shape of a very large pear. Nutritionally, the fruit is a good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, potassium, and is a good source of fiber. A medium-sized chayote has only about 50 caloriWith a fairly smooth skin that is creamy-white or light green, chayotes have white mild-tasting flesh that surrounds one soft seed. Usually weighing between eight ounces to three pounds, they range in length from three to eight inches. Typically, you’ll find the smaller ones throughout the year at the supermarket, produce stand or farmers market. Look for those that are small, firm and unblemished.
To prepare – regardless of the method you choose – simply wash the chayote and remove the seed. There is no need to remove the skin because it is edible.
Basically this can be prepared in any way suitable for summer or winter squash. Besides eating it raw in salads or including it on fresh vegetable trays, it can be fried, baked, broiled, sautéed, steamed, mashed or microwaved. It can be used as an ingredient in soups and stews. You can also stuff chayote with a mixture of seasoned ground meat and bake it in the oven as a main dish. To serve it as a simple side dish, sauté small chunks with onions and fresh herbs.
Liquid coconut products are often confused, and they are not interchangeable. Once opened, these products should be refrigerated for a couple of days up to a week.
Coconut water: the liquid that is drained from a whole coconut.
Coconut milk and cream: made by pressing the thick, white flesh of a well-matured coconut. Some brands of coconut milk, such as Chao Koh and Mae Ploy, have thick coconut cream floating on top of the can.
Cream of coconut: is NOT coconut water, coconut milk or coconut cream. It is a sweetened product that is used for desserts and mixed drinks. You find it in the liquor department; try the Coco Lopez brand.
Peppercorns grow in clusters on an evergreen climbing vine native to the jungles of India’s Malabar Coast and in Indonesia and Brazil.
For black pepper, the clusters of berries are picked when not quite ripe, left in piles to ferment and then sun-dried for two or three more days until they are shriveled and nearly black. Black pepper has a biting, hot flavor suitable to season a huge variety of foods.
White pepper is derived from the fully ripened berries. The clusters are packed in bags and soaked in water to soften the outer coating so that it may be removed to reveal gray centers. The gray peppercorns are then naturally bleached to white by sun-drying. White pepper is more subtle in heat and useful in light colored dishes where black specks would be unappealing.
Green peppercorns are the least ripe and most immature form of the berry. When harvested the berries are either packed in weak brine or dried. You’ll find the brined ones in small cans or jars in the condiment section of the grocery store. Bite into one and you’ll get a short intense burst of flavor that is often described as piquant and fresh and with an aroma that is bright and lively.
French, Creole and Thai cooking are well known for their use of green peppercorns. They complement creamy sauces and vinaigrettes and can be an ingredient in dips for fresh vegetables.
A delicious cheese roll is made with green peppercorns. Drain a tablespoon of green peppercorns and mash them into a half cup of cream cheese. Next form the cheese into a ball or a cylinder and roll it in a mixture of finely minced fresh parsley and chives. Wrap the roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Serve the cheese roll with a variety of crackers.
Knowing that green peppercorns go well with fish, especially salmon, here is a recipe from the Internet (www.mediatinker.com).
Salmon Fillets with Green Peppercorn Sauce
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 shallots, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 6 tablespoons chicken stock
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 to 3 tablespoons green peppercorns in brine, rinsed (divided use)
- 4 salmon fillets
- oil for frying
Measure and rinse the brine from the peppercorns. Over medium heat, cook the shallots in butter until softened, but not browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the white wine and stock and bring to a boil to reduce liquid to one-fourth of the volume. Reduce heat, add the cream and half of the peppercorns, crushing the peppercorns with the back of the spoon as you add them. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until the sauce is slightly thickened; Strain the sauce. Stir in the remaining whole peppercorns.
Panfry the salmon in oil about 4 minutes, taking care not to overcook it. To serve, pour sauce over salmon. Add a simple rice pilaf and a steamed green vegetable for a delicious dinner. Expect compliments!
This article was originally published in an issue of Personal Chef Magazine, a publication for members of the United States Personal Chef Association.